Kansas City’s National Airline History Museum facing turbulence over lease at downtown airport

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After peacefully coexisting with the city’s Wheeler Downtown Airport since 1986, the nonprofit National Airline History Museum finds itself in an existential battle to survive.

“We’re going to lose all of this history if we let the museum go away,” said John Roper, board president of the National Airline History Museum.

Before the pandemic, the museum, located on the west side of the airport, averaged 300-400 guests per week.

Not to be confused with the separate TWA Museum on the eastside of the airport, the Airline History Museum, with eye-catching exhibits like the TWA Moonliner commissioned by Howard Hughes and a fully restored TWA Lockheed Constellation, has also hosted many benefits and fundraisers in recent years.

But right now, the museum is in a legal battle with the private operator of the downtown airport, Signature Flight Support.

The case, which is being heard in Clay County, aims to resolve which lease, concerning the museum, both parties should abide by.

“For some reason, they’ve (Signature Flight Support) made the decision that they just want the Airline History Museum gone,” Roper told FOX4. “It’s not like they want to renew our rent or work with us or do anything else; they just want it gone.”

FOX4 reached out to Signature Flight Support for a comment but did not hear back.

Roper argues the museum has an agreement with the city that allows the collection to remain on airport property in perpetuity, as long as it’s maintained as a non-profit.

The legal dispute could take 3-4 months to resolve.

“It’s not like they’re out of space and they need us gone so they can bring in more tenants, it’s quite the opposite right now.”

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